Star Light, Star Bright

Star light, star bright,
The first start I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might…
Hey, that’s no star…
It’s a satellite!

Looking up into space as a kid was so much simpler. Camping in the woods is no escape.

Let's Ask the Internet: Dropping a course

How do you suggest to a student that you think he/she should drop a course? Let’s ask the Internet!

“How to tell someone” … autocomplete suggestions “you love them” or “you have herpes”.
Nope. These questions might be related — just not to my question.

“How to tell someone you think” … “they have borderline personality disorder”.

“how to tell someone you think they should drop” … “a class”. Bingo.
No relevant results. Why did you suggest that autocompletion?

Open letter to the Internet:

Dear Internet,

I thought you knew everything. When I was three, I used to think my parents knew everything, too. Now, I see that I am wrong again. How many times can one face disillusionment in life?

Twice Burned

Edit: Internet’s response:

Subject: Re: How many times can one face disillusionment in life?

Dear user 7138620,

You can activate your Microsoft Office Home Edition product key up to three times.

Digitally yours,
The Internet

The War on Toronto

I’ve been following the current hearing about Mayor Ford and his alleged run-in with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA). Over lunch, I explained to Daniel Levy, one of Steve’s new students, the gist of what is happening. Daniel, hailing most recently from Winnipeg ((Daniel had his bike stolen the week after he arrived and now he gets to hear about our mayor. Welcome to Toronto!)), rightly wondered if the Mayor’s oafishness is due to cherry-picked quotes from the media. Continue reading “The War on Toronto”

Improving by leaps and bionic bounds

One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read all week is about how people that would have been considered “disabled” a century ago are receiving prosthetics of all sorts that are closing or have closed the gap with “normal” individuals. The thing that struck me most was Wilson’s comment that it was not the rich that will benefit at first from physical and mental enhancements but those perceived to be at a disadvantage. This provided some reassurance that the world of Harrison Bergeron will probably not come to be — at least not in terms of handicapping. In that future, all individuals are equal by bringing those that are (more) gifted in some way to the level of the least through a system of handicaps. In a world full of prosthetics such as those mentioned in Wilson’s article, maybe there can be equality for all not by diminishing our abilities but by amplifying them.

An almost-blog post

A few months ago, Steve suggested I write a paper for a particular conference. He even gave me a topic. Brat that I am, I thought about for a few minutes and then flat out said no to that topic but thought of another one suitable for the conference. I decided to write on the ethics and legality of reCAPTCHA. While outside the scope of my academic oeuvre, I figured that even if my paper got rejected, it would still make for an interesting “Random musings” blog post. But it hasn’t come to that. Instead, you can look for it at PST 2012 in a couple of months. At seven pages (and possibly eight after further additions), this is longer than my typical blog post. You might want to get your favourite hot beverage ready before diving in.

ScoutFS: Choppy LAN videos begone!

Have you ever tried playing a video from your local network using software such as VLC or MPlayer and had the video stop every few seconds? I have a solution (currently only available on Mac)! ScoutFS is a file system that will pre-fetch data to avoid this locking-up. Once a network share is loaded (or, indeed, any file system including a DVD or your own hard drive), ScoutFS creates a read-only copy of the drive in memory from which you can open the files without the choppy playback. Once it’s installed (I hope a fairly straightforward process), just drag a folder or disk onto the application in your /Applications folder and load the file from the newly mounted disk!

I will be working on a few more iterations of this software over the next week or so. Hopefully I will have this running on Linux machines soon. Check it out at!

Spring like a bunny

This might be my most Canadian post, yet…

Toronto normally has four seasons: spring, summer, colourful, and blah. But this year, blah wasn’t terribly cold and spring seems to have made like a bunny and just hopped away. We went from blah to summer over night (Friday night to Saturday morning). We can’t pin this on climate change (after all, this is just the weather for one year — although it seems to be part of a climate trend). So what is it? I call weather witchcraft.